Labour and Co-operative Member of
Parliament for Kemptown and Peacehaven

Labour talks prison system

by Lloyd on 12.03.15
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Lewes Labour Party has taken politics to the people with a series of public meetings on key topics of the day.  So far we have had public meetings on the following: North Street Development (August 2013); Transport – rail, bus, bike and 20-mile limit, (September 2013); NHS (October 2103), Lewes as a Living Wage town (November 2013); and Violence Against Women (December 2013). The meetings usually take place on the first Monday of the month, 7.30-9pm, at Lewes Labour rooms, North Street, Lewes, and have been well attended and lively with a mix of speakers and discussion. 
Our 6th Public meeting took place on 2 March this year on the topic of Prisons and the criminal justice system.
A representative from the Prison Officers Association (POA) who cannot be named for fear of reprisal was mainly concerned about the low level of staffing which meant that prisoners, many of who suffer from mental illness, could not be guaranteed safety, neither could they work or get proper training and rehabilitation. The level of prison suicides had risen dramatically and staff no longer felt sufficiently trained or in sufficient numbers to cope with the situation.  Lewes as a local prison was certainly not the worst case, but nevertheless was under acute strain. This state of affairs he attributed to the cost-cutting austerity measures of the current government, which is only likely to get worse if the Conservatives retain power.
This was followed by a short talk by Sara Hyde who has worked in the criminal justice system and is currently working with women leaving prison.  She gave several examples of what happens to women who leave prison and who often suffer from mental or drug-related problems, and the difficulties of finding them proper accommodation and support. Many of these women, Sara said, shouldn’t have been given custodial sentences in the first place as they did  not constitute a public threat. Reductions in legal aid and the privatisation of the probation service had only made matters worse.
Sara who is hoping to stand as a future Labour parliamentary candidate expressed the hope that Labour, when in power, will reverse the privatisation and race-to-the-bottom of conditions both for staff and prisoners, and also reverse the changes made to legal aid and the probation service
People who have been to these meetings say that the speakers have been interesting and informative and that they now feel better informed about what they should be demanding from their councils and politicians, local and nationally. Details of meetings have been advertised through the Lewes Labour Party website and in the windows of the Labour Party Office, 3 North Street.
Gaby Weiner, convenor

Vía Blog – Lewes Labour Party

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